In every elite group there are always a few rare individuals who stand head and shoulders above the rest. Harry Ashkenazie A”H was as rare as they come. As a successful entrepreneur he showed tremendous dedication and work ethics. But unlike dozens of other success stories, Harry never forgot people. Somehow every person was important. Whether it was a longtime associate, friend, or family member, he was there.
In today’s world, where many people are in pursuit of the ultimate experience, adventure, automobile etc., Harry’s attention and focus continued to be on his family. His generosity to both people and charities attested to the fact that he wanted people to be as satisfied and proud as he was. As is recounted in the recent parasha of Vayishlach, Jacob – upon the fateful tense meeting with his brother Esau – proudly proclaimed that G-d had blessed him with everything. This was a philosophy that Harry lived by. While he continued to strive to achieve the best results for his family, he continued to be thankful and praise G-d for all his blessings.
Early on in life Harry served his country during the Vietnam War. As a soldier, he stood out once again and was offered a position in communications as a message decoder. This protected him from the front lines where many lives were lost. He believed that Divine intervention had spared him, and he would make sure that each day from then on was meaningful.
Several years after his return from the war, Harry met Cheryl Massry. Harry knew right away that Cheryl was the one, and insisted on an immediate introduction. Shortly thereafter they were married and started a beautiful family.
Responsible for overseas production in his company, Harry would need to take frequent trips to China to ensure that the goods that were being produced were of the highest quality, and to watch over the interests of the family. We know from the actions of our forefathers that it is incumbent upon us to oversee all that we have with diligence. Harry exercised this type of care in all that he did. If he were to take on any project it had to be done right. Every product he manufactured had the name Harry Ash on it. It was very symbolic, as his signature and style appeared on anything he touched – his company product line, the beautiful and elegant parties he planned, his home, etc.
His principles in business and personal dealings were the same. Harry believed his words were as binding as any contract, which today is certainly rare. There was never a doubt in his mind that he would follow through on his words with action. I remember one story about how Harry bought his Deal home. He had found out an uncle was selling his Jersey home. From his in-law’s house he went around the corner. Within fifteen minutes he returned home and announced that he had just purchased the home. And in sure Harry fashion he quickly completed the transaction.
At his New Jersey home, Harry took tremendous pride in designing the outdoor and pool area of the home. It meant so much to him, as that is where he welcomed guests frequently. He was always concerned about the comfort and safety of his guests, especially children. He would make sure that every child had what they needed to have fun. Even his friends’ children would refer to him as “Uncle Harry.”
Harry’s love of children did not end there. If one of the children had a birthday, he would remind us to “call him at the office.” Sure enough, later that day he would excitedly return home with something for them, often toting it on the train. The impression he made on these kids can’t be measured.
This past summer again, in classic Harry style, he planned the annual summer carnival for the children in Hathaway Synagogue. For the first time ever, rides and carnival games were brought in. Normally an indoor event, the carnival took up the entire parking area of the synagogue. Of course, Harry was there from early in the morning making sure that everything was done right. The carnival was a great success.
While he will be greatly missed, Harry’s contributions to the community will continue to flourish for decades. Even more so, Harry’s impact on the lives of the individuals he was close to, and the enduring legacy of his wonderful family, provide to us a shining example of how to live our lives – accomplishment along with grace and style.
Harry Ashkenazie is survived by his beloved wife Cheryl, three daughters, two sons, and seven grandchildren.